Thousands jostle to bid farewell to Karunakaran

Friday, December 24, 2010

KOLLAM - Thousands waited for hours on the National Highway 47 from Thiruvananthapuram to Kollam to catch one last glimpse of four-time Kerala chief minister K. Karunakaran who passed away a day earlier at the age of 92.

Karunakaran’s last journey began Friday morning from the capital city - Thiruvananthapuram - a place where he ruled the roost for almost four decades.

His body was moved in a state-owned bus in which his son, grandchildren, senior party leaders like Ramesh Chennithala and several law-makers were present.

The vehicle moved at snail’s pace as at every junction huge crowds gathered to pay their respects to the veteran Congress leader.

Speaking to IANS over phone from the bus, Rajmohan Unnithan said the carriage was late by more than three hours on account of the huge crowds that were waiting by the roadside.

“If this is the way it moves, then it would reach Thrissur (hometown) only by Saturday morning. We are doing our best to allow as many people as possible to have one last glimpse of our departed leader,” Unnithan said.

Earlier in the day, a huge crowd gathered at the Congress headquarters in the state capital to bid farewell to Karunakaran, with party president Sonia Gandhi also paying her last respects to the veteran leader.

Sonia Gandhi, who arrived by a special flight, spent around five minutes paying homage to Karunakaran and conveyed her condolences to his family. Home Minister P. Chidambaram also paid his last respects to the Congress leader.

Karunakaran breathed his last at a private hospital at 5.30 p.m Thursday. Thousands poured out on the streets as his body was taken from Ananthapuri Hospital, where he was admitted Dec 10, to his home less than 10 km away in a closed ambulance as news of his death spread rapidly.

Just as he knew every nook and corner of the city, people from all walks of life from every part of the state capital filed past his body throughout Thursday night to pay homage to Kerala’s undisputed Congress leader.

At 8.15 a.m. Friday, his body was moved to the party headquarters where a huge crowd was waiting for a last glimpse of the veteran.

By noon, thousands filed past his body at the Durbar Hall and Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan led the long list of mourners, which also included union Law Minister M. Veerapa Moily.

By 1.30 p.m, his journey began to his hometown Thrissur where he will be cremated Saturday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to attend the last rites.

As a mark of respect to the departed leader, the state government declared a public holiday Friday and all university and state public service examinations and interviews were postponed.

Karunakaran’s condition deteriorated last week and he was put on the ventilator. His condition improved in a few days but he suffered a stroke Wednesday and died Thursday. He is survived by his politician son K. Muraleedharan and daughter Padmaja Venugopal.

Karunakaran’s death has cast a shadow of sorrow on Kerala, almost eclipsing the Christmas spirit and joy.

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